A Chinese official in charge of regulating the Internet has said Beijing must strengthen Internet security because “overseas hostile forces” are using the Internet to “attack, slander and spread rumors,” Chinese state media said yesterday.
Chinese National Internet Information Office deputy director Wang Xiujun (王秀軍) said political security is fundamental, reported the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Wang’s remarks coincide with a broad crackdown on online freedom of expression that has intensified since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power last year. The crackdown has drawn criticism from rights advocates domestically and abroad.
“Now, overseas hostile forces are using the Internet as a main channel to penetrate and destroy [us],” Wang was quoted as saying. “Using the name of ‘Internet freedom’ to repeatedly attack, slander and spread rumors in an effort to undermine our country’s stability and national security.”
Winning “the struggle for ideological penetration” would “decide to a great extent the future of our party and country,” Wang said.
In February, Xi took the reins of a government body for Internet security, saying he aimed to turn China into a “cyberpower.”
He said then that working on public opinion online was a long-term responsibility and the Internet could be used to “spread discipline.”
The party renewed a campaign on online discourse last year, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumors on microblogs are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.
China maintains tight control over media access and coverage. Censorship is widespread and Internet users cannot access information about many topics without special software to circumvent restrictions.
Wang said China wants to strengthen its security of networks and information systems in part due to intrusions in cyberspace by foreign governments, the People’s Daily reported.
The case of whistleblower and former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden showed that “a few countries have used their superiority in Internet resources and information technology to conduct large-scale Internet surveillance and to steal a large volume of political, economic, military and corporate secrets,” Wang said.
He did not name any country, but questions over cyberespionage have long cast a shadow over China-US ties, with each side accusing the other of spying.
China’s Ministry of National Defense said in March that the nation would beef up its Internet security after the New York Times and Der Spiegel reported that documents leaked by Snowden said the US National Security Agency accessed servers at China’s Huawei Technologies to obtain sensitive data and monitor executives’ communications.